I Change My City

Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy

[ 426 Votes ]

India

Organization Type: Civil Society | Category: Internet for Development

Project Summary

Ichangemycity.com is a hyper-local social change network that has created communities of citizens in Bengaluru, keen on solving city centric problems and has resolved around 10,000 complaints by connecting them to various government agencies. The site has tried to help solve issues ranging from garbage collection, poor street lighting, potholes and security related issue in the suburbs. It has also provided citizens with useful information on how much funds have been allocated to wards and constituencies and how the same has been uitilised.

The unique power of ichangemycity.com is that it networks people locally to address issues of common concerns. It connects people on-line to bring them together off-line for civic engagement on the ground.
The multiplicity of various government departments and the paperwork involved acts as a deterrent for many individuals to connect with civic agencies. Ichangemycity.com tries to address this problem by being a seamless bridge between government and citizens.
Ichangemycity.com works on the 4C mantra- Complaint, Community, Connect, and Content.
1. Post a complaint online:
Access to technology makes it easier for people to create awareness about important and pressing civic issues in their neighbourhoods relating to garbage, potholes, faulty streetlights, among others. A key feature of the site is its complaint box, a tool that allows people to post their complaints regarding civic issues, track other complaints on civic amenities in their neighbourhood, and participate in conversations with the community, and find solutions together.
Effects: Since its Beta launch in December 2011, ICMyC has seen over 1 Lakh visitors from all over India and the world. Till date, the number of users have been1,40,053, and20,888 complaints have been posted, while 10,869 have been resolved.
2. Vote up and Build a Community:
It enables building a group or a network on any issue or civic concern that bothers the user. Citizens invite their friends and neighbours to the Network, and create a narrative around the problem. People also set up neighbourhood and issue specific groups for civic action, and interact on common issues in gatherings by creating events. Neighbourhood discussions through forums, sharing ideas and solutions for local issues are also initiated.
More importantly, active citizens are rallying support for a particular complaint, getting many ‘Vote ups’, and making sure the concerned issue is resolved as soon as possible.
Effects: Example: Chandrashekar and John, employees of Thomson Reuters, posted a complaint about the dismal condition of an underpass. Given the strategic location of the underpass, its condition was creating havoc for commuters. Their complaint on ichangemycity.com got close to 100 ‘Vote ups’. This caught the attention of civic agencies, and the underpass repair work is now underway. This is just one of the main examples of active citizenship on the website.
Presently there are more than 329 pages on various issues on Ichangemycity.com.
3. Connect with civic authorities:
Complaints that are posted, are recorded, docketed with a unique number and are sent to the concerned civic agency. The complainant is then given the number of the particular engineer from the allocated civic agency. The citizen follows up with the engineer and gets the issue resolved.
Effects: more than 10,000 civic complaints from faulty streetlights to potholes-ridden streets have been resolved.
4. Content:
The site provides news and in-depth information on civic issues, celebrates heroes in the city striving to make a difference (Champion of Change), and offers a map based tool to view one's ward, political boundaries, elected representatives, polling parts, nearest local civic agency. The site also helps people find out their quality of life, voter information, local groups working on improving urban quality of life and so on.
Effects: stories on active neighbourhoods, Champions of Change, and success stories, have been picked up by the mainstream media, creating awareness about good civic practises.

Background

Ichangemycity.com is a project by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a non-profit organisation based in Bengaluru. It works with citizens and the Government to improve the quality of life in Indian cities and towns.
IChangeMyCity was launched in 2012 to address the lack of three aspects in governance; participation, accountability and transparency.
1. Participation
Participation from citizens in governance related matters make our local elected representatives and civic agencies accountable. We elect those who govern us, and therefore our participation is the only way to get them to deliver to our satisfaction.
Also, participation starting at the local level allows us to be part of the decision making table at the footprint that matters to us most -- our neighbourhoods. This means decisions on our local water supply, our roads, our sewage, our traffic, approvals for land use and zoning and so on.
2. Accountability
While urban areas continue to struggle to have basic infrastructure and services meant to ensure liveability, making it happen is not the responsibility of the government alone. The democratic process does not end with voting. We, the residents of a city are as much responsible for it as are our elected representatives and civic agencies, and need to take ownership of it as individuals and a community.
3. Transparency
Fixing our drains, our roads, our garbage, our water, our traffic, therefore, is fixing the nuts and bolts of our democracy. It takes the ideals of democracy into the realm of concrete action. And this is what both our online products are about: online activism spurring active participation to facilitate action, and to bring about change on the ground.
The greatest chance of success in initiatives like I Change My City is when there is greater partnership and collaboration to bring about systemic change.
Impact: Within first 10 days of its launch, the site received 1,400 complaints.

Justification

The main reason for the initiation of the project was to empower citizens through technology, and encourage them out of armchair activism mode.
The projects was idealised to provide an online platform to citizens to air their grievances in relation to civic issues in their neighbourhoods. The problems of potholes, bad roads, faulty streetlights, among others are endemic. However, some issues are more specific to certain neighbourhoods. Through Ichangemycity.com, we want to provide for a platform where generic as well as more specific, neighbourhood-related issues can be discussed.
Impact: Some specific stories such as citizen posting about the pathetic condition of Yemlur Lake, Bellandur got more than 1,756 ‘Vote Ups’ catching the attention of authorities. The cleaning up process of the lake is currently underway.
Similarly, another citizen complained about an untarred road causing a menace to commuters in North Bangalore. The complaint got more than 1,117 ‘Vote ups’. Work on tarring the road is currently underway.

This project nominated to the ISIF Asia award because…

We, at Ichangmeycity.com, believe that one of the main contributions towards community development was to capitalise on the existing mobile and net penetration in thecity. A perceptible shift can be seen in us from being armchair activist to active change makers, thanks to the presence of online portals like ichangemycity.com and access to technology.
The persistent question at the face of any civic hardships remains the same; Who’s in charge of fixing the city. The answer was simple enough. We are in charge.
Since 2011, empowered active citizens have posted more than 20,000 complaints relating to civic issues. And, more than 10,000 complaints have been resolved. Ichangemycity.com, along with active citizens,is trying to change neighbourhoods, one complaint at a time.
To make sure our objective of empowering citizens was met, we employed various technological innovations. These include:
1) GIS technology – The power of ichangemycity.com is that it is geo-locational. Citizens upload geo-coded issues that are affecting them, and view information pertaining to their own neighbourhood. The site allows civic authorities to see a map of complaints in their constituencies right down to the street level – taking citizen’s voices from intangible sentiment, to real actionable items.
2) Mobile Technology – Mobile applications allow citizens to upload complaints to the ichangemycity.com database in real time, as well as browse the website for vital information on their neighbourhoods and elected representatives. Our Mobile applications are available for two operating systems; Android, and iOS. These include: complaints stream; detailed complaint cards featuring photos, resolution status, ‘I’m affected’ button, map of complaint location, comment button, social media share feature, and complaint heat maps by ward; notification feature for complaints posted in a registered users’ ward.
3) Social networking / forums – The site allows citizens to form groups with like-minded residents in their areas – fostering civic consciousness. It will also provide opportunities for citizens to participate in real-time ‘hang-outs’ with their elected representatives – allowing an unprecedented level of connectedness between the public and public servants.
4) Complaints management technology for government agencies (such as water and electricity suppliers) – offering MIS reports for civic agencies to track geo-located complaints uploaded by citizens, drastically improving resolution times, and helping to streamline their workflows. Analytics will allow departments to track their successes and plot trends over time.
5) Constituency Connect for elected officials – A ‘one-stop-shop’ tool for Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to manage civic complaints posted on ICMyC, as well as view vital information about their constituencies. The CMSwill provide MLAswith:
i. Complaint Management Dashboard including breakdown of complaints – Total, Acknowledged, Resolved, Re-opened.
ii. ‘Acknowledge it’ tool for easy complaint acknowledgement, including tabs for providing updates on the status of complaint redressal.
iii. Vital information about their electorate, with granularity extending down to the polling booth level, including demographic information such as age, religious affiliation, voting eligibility and previous voting preference of their electorate.
iv. Snapshots of all wards in an Assembly Constituency, including inter-ward comparability as well as breakdown of complaints by type within a given ward.
v. MIS system including report generation / analytics capability.

Team

Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy constituted a team that was responsible for the implementation and management of IChangeMyCity. The team was headed by a co-ordinator and it consisted of 5 major function with each function headed by a manager. The following are the different departments:
a) Product team: This team was responsible for developing and improving the user experience of the website
b) Tech team: This team looked into the technical implementation and management of the website
c) Content team: This team was responsible for developing the content (such as news articles, stories about active citizens, etc.) that goes into the website
d) Marketing team: This team looked into the marketing aspects of the website ie. increasing awareness and getting citizens to use the website
e) Outreach team: This team engages with the citizens who have highlighted civic issue on the website. The team also liase with the civic agencies and ensures that the agency takes up the complaints.
We also had different corporate houses such as Mindtree, Dell and Intel who gave us support in reaching out to their employees to raise awareness about the website.

Objectives

The main objective of IChangeMyCity was to initiate citizen participation and engagement through community building with the help of technology.

We believe citizen participation is importantbecause participation from citizens in governance related matters makes our local elected representatives accountable. We elect those who govern us, and therefore our participation is the only way to get them to deliver to our satisfaction. Also, participation allows us to be part of the decision making table at the local level, at the footprint that matters to us most -- our neighbourhoods. This means decisions on our local water supply, our roads, our sewage, our traffic, approvals for land use and zoning and so on.

While urban areas continue to struggle to have basic infrastructure and services meant to ensure liveability, making it happen is not the responsibility of the government alone. The democratic process does not end with voting. We, the residents of a city’s locality are as much responsible for it as are our elected representatives and civic agencies, and need to take ownership of it as individuals and a community.
Fixing our drains, our roads, our garbage, our water, our traffic, therefore, is fixing the nuts and bolts of our democracy. It takes the ideals of democracy into the realm of concrete action. And this is what IChangeMyCity is all about; active citizenship to facilitate action, and to bring about change on the ground.
The strategy employed was simple; capitalise on the Internet penetration. There could be no better tool to initiate engagement and community building than the Internet. It uses the power of the internet to connect people locally, and helps them discuss and act on their civic issues. By helping people come together and collaborate as an online community, it transforms citizens into change agents.
Being an information exchange platform with the requisite tools for community engagement, the site encourages bubble-up thought leadership and solution from one and all. Through the spirit of active citizenship, IChangeMyCity intends to help improve the quality of life in the city.

Technical details and contribution to innovation

I Change my City is currently made available in both web and mobile (Android and iOS) versions using advanced and cutting edge technologies.
I Change my City web platform is built on a software distribution model called Software as a Service (SaaS). Software as a service (or SaaS) is a way of delivering applications over the Internet—as a service. Instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access it via the Internet, freeing yourself from complex software and hardware management.
A key aspect of SaaS is that it supports a multi-tenant architecture that allows multiple customers to coexist (in a secure way) on the same application instance. This has helped us to have a single code base (version of the software) to install and support and a simpler server infrastructure, therefore being able to invest more time and effort into the single code base. On boarding of cities is completely online since the software runs on a server.

The I Change my City web application is developed on CodeIgniter (an open source rapid development web application framework) framework with code written in PHP.Codeigniterenables [developers] to develop projects much faster than writing code from scratch, by providing a rich set of libraries for commonly needed tasks, as well as a simple interface and logical structure to access these libraries.
On the front end web development, I Change my City was designed using Bootstrap - an open source HTML, CSS, and JS framework. Bootstrap helps in developing responsive, mobile first projects on the web and also makes front-end web development faster and easier.
I Change my City’s android mobile app is built using Activities &Fragments (a piece of an application's user interface or behaviour) which supports more dynamic and flexible UI designs on large screens. I Change my City mobile app is designed using Material design - a comprehensive guide for visual, motion, and interaction design across platforms and devices. Material design has helped us in bring more user friendliness to our mobile app.
I Change my City also uses tools like Intercom and Mixpanelto track user behaviour in our web and mobile apps. Intercom enables us to have live conversations and send targeted messages to website visitors and users where in Mixpanel enables us in tracking and understanding our users behaviour on our applications.

Activities

One of the most relevant activities conducted was on boarding of civic agencies. One of ichangemycity.com’s biggest objectives was to be the bridge between civic agencies and citizens. To achieve that goal, it was imperative to get the civic service providers involved in this ambition of ours.
Today, we seven civic agencies on-board, these include Bruhat Bangalore MahanagarPalike (BBMP), Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Bangalore Traffic Police (BTP), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM),and Karnataka state Pollution Control Board.
Keeping the importance of accountability in mind, we have also initiated Constituency connect, where we have on boarded various Elected Representatives, including Corporators, MLAs, and MPS. This enables both the elected representative to be aware of the issues plaguing their wards and constituencies, and the citizens to stay connected with their representatives.
Moreover, this also assists the representatives to view complete list of grievances in their constituency, push complaints to agencies for resolution, ability to filter complaints according to date, and communicate directly with complainants, among other features.
Both the onboarding of civic agencies and elected representatives have been completed.
Offline events known as JanaSpandanas are also conducted to help connect citizens to each other and elected representatives, civic agencies. Various commitments made by the government officials at these events are noted and aggressively followed-up on to ensure resolutions of issues.
Corporate Connect: To create awareness among the techie crowd of Bengaluru, the ones most affected by the issues in the upcoming neighbourhoods in the outskirts of the city, corporate events were held in various MNCs, including Citibank, Mindtree, Happiest Minds, among others. Employees were encouraged to register with the site and post their complaints. Various company-specific pages were also created.
Impact: About 2,500 registrations from corporate events.

Outcomes

One of the biggest outcomes on IChangeMyCity has been the success stories of active citizens whose perseverance got many of the issues resolved in their neighbourhoods.
Examples: ShailendraMohanty, an active Citizen posted a complaint on ichangemycity.com about the pathetic condition of PattandurAgrahara road in North Bengaluru. After getting the number of the Engineer from the concerned department on Ichangemycity.com, Mohanty followed up with him consistently and got the issue resolved.
Another active citizen,Gajendrafrom Ulsoor, East Bengaluru has posted 523 complaints, and has also got majority of complaints resolved. These active citizens, with the help of ichangemycity.com, are changing neighbourhoods, one complaint at a time.
Describe what dissemination efforts were completed during the last year to promote your project. Include lists of publications, marketing materials, etc.
We used multiple platforms to raise awareness and get citizens to use IChangeMyCity. The following platforms were used
Digital
• Social Media (Facebook / Twitter / Google+ / Instagram /WhatApp) – Conversations were built with the current and new users to engage with them and get them to use the website
• CPC Marketing (Facebook and Google) – Facebook ads and Google Ads (Search and Display) was deployed to get people to the website
• CPL Marketing – Ad networks were leveraged to reach out to new users from different websites on Cost Per Lead model
• E-Newsletters and Product e-mailers – Weekly newsletters were sent out to our current users and emailers talking about the website features were sent regularly to them as well

Offline
• Corporate Outreach Program - We visited several corporate houses such as Dell, Mindtree, Intel and interacted with the employees to raise awareness
• PR – We worked with a media agency to get coverage in newspapers and on TV – particularly for our event “IChangeMyStreet”
• Print and Radio – We released print ads which appeared in leading English and Kannada dailies such as Times Of India, Bangalore Mirror, Deccan Herald, Prajavani and Vijay Karnataka. We also used radio spots on leading radio channels such as Radio Mirchi, Radio City, Radio Indigo and Fever FM. These two media were used to promote the event - IChangeMyStreet

Publications and dissemination efforts

We used multiple platforms to raise awareness and get citizens to use IChangeMyCity. The following platforms were used
Digital
• Social Media (Facebook / Twitter / Google+ / Instagram /WhatApp) – Conversations were built with the current and new users to engage with them and get them to use the website
• CPC Marketing (Facebook and Google) – Facebook ads and Google Ads (Seach and Display) was deployed to get people to the website
• CPL Marketing – Ad networks were leveraged to reach out to new users from different websites on Cost Per Lead model
• E-Newsletters and Product e-mailers – Weekly newsletters were sent out to our current users and emailers talking about the website features were sent regularly to them as well

Offline
• Corporate Outreach Program - We visited several corporate houses such as Dell, Mindtree, Intel and interacted with the employees to raise awareness
• PR – We worked with a media agency to get coverage in newspapers and on TV – particularly for our event “IChangeMyStreet”
• Print and Radio – We released print ads which appeared in leading English and Kannada dailies such as Times Of India, Bangalore Mirror, Deccan Herald, Prajavani and Vijay Karnataka. We also used radio spots on leading radio channels such as Radio Mirchi, Radio City, Radio Indigo and Fever FM. These two media were used to promote the event - IChangeMyStreet

Awards and distinctions

Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy was awarded the prestigious Global Impact Award in recognition of its path breaking hyper-local social change network, ichangemycity.com in 2013. The award instituted by Google selected Janaagraha and three other organisations in India.

Website

http://janaagraha.org/ and project website : http://www.ichangemycity.com/

YouTube movie about the project

https://www.youtube.com/user/ichangemycity

profile or page from the organization or project leader

https://www.facebook.com/ichangemycity

profile from the organization or project leader

http://twitter.com/ichangemycity

profile from the organization or project leader

https://plus.google.com/+Janaagraha/posts

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